Of Obasanjo, Babangida, Buhari and Misrepresentation:
A Rejoinder to Dr. Abdulrahman Muhammad, Umar Bello, and Sesan Koyejo's
By Reno Omokri
When I read Dr. Muhammad's article on the invading forces in Aso rock, I was rather impressed at the obvious patriotism of this intellectual. He was not happy with the sorry state of the Nigerian nation, and sought to lay the blame for it's condition on certain individuals.
Rather than blame Obasanjo, CAN and the Yoruba as a race, what he should have done is to appraise the role of the other side of the power equation in Nigeria i.e. the Northwest/Hausa/Fulani hegemony played in bringing Nigeria to where it is today.
You forgot to mention that Northern, Muslim "generals" of Hausa Fulani descent, ruled this country called Nigeria for much of her existence. In that time, they did nothing to further the human development of the common people of northern Nigeria, but became stupendously wealthy and inhumanely repressive. In his Oct. 2000 Thisday interview, Mohammed Babangida, the first son of Babangida talked about the love he had for his horse, such that when it was ill he took it for treatment in Europe on a chartered flight. The sad thing is that not very far from his father's house, there are people who don't have Phensic or Paracetamol to swallow when they have a headache!
Mohammed Abacha, who I personally interviewed in January 2000 at the Kiri-kiri prisons, is worth by virtue of being his father's heir over 1.5 billion dollars (if he can only get access to some of the billions of dollars of his late father's seized asset). He shamefully narrated to a Swiss legal practitioner how his father gave him a gift of $750 million in cash on a visit he paid to his father at the presidential villa. This from his very own mouth. Yet Kano, where he hails from has the 3rd highest infant mortality rate in Nigeria, and one of the lowest adult literacy rates.
Is it not shameful to you, that in his 1999 Africa magazine interview, Mallam Adamu Ciroma had to confess that the only time education particularly primary education (his emphasis not mine) flourished in the north was under Gen. Obasanjo's 1976-79 regime, a southerner?
How can you ignore that in Kebbi state, which is the most educationally backward state in Nigeria, the governor Adamu Aliero, spent over 100 million naira in providing limousines for Emirs, yet the only tertiary institution in his state, Kebbi Poly had it's teachers on strike for salary matters?
In a country desperately in need of education, Abacha's Minister of Education, Alhaji Birma Idris, accused southerners publicly of being "in a mad rush for education".
The people you respect in the northwest are people who never cared for the masses of beautiful talakawas and almajiris in the north or their sufferings, but exploited their ignorance and love for God, as evidenced by their blind following of these leaders because they are Muslims. You see this and fail to note it and then turn around to put the blame for Nigeria's sorry state on President Olusegun Obasanjo, the man who has provided more infrastructure for the provision of water (which is the north's major problem after illiteracy). An area which has been ignored by his last four predecessors, all but one of whom where northerners. Dr. Muhammad, where was your pen then?
The problem in Nigeria is not with Obasanjo, or the Yoruba's (but I thank God I am not Yoruba, because you will reduce my reasoning to tribalism). The problem is that Northern leaders, particularly in the Hausa/Fulani Northwest, do not love their people enough to emancipate them from their terrible state, and then make it difficult for others to do so, by bringing religion into the matter, such that these lovely people become so suspicious of any non Muslim/southern leader.
How else can you explain that Ikeja LGA, uses more electricity than the entire states in the Northwest? That Ondo state, has more Professors than all the Northwestern and North Central states combined? That life expectancy, infant mortality, and adult literacy rates are much better in the south, yet according to the BBC (Check their website) the two richest dynasties in Africa, come from this same north (Abacha and Babangida families) and yet instead of intelligent men like yourself attacking these problems from the roots, you seek to lay the blame on the Obasanjo administration along with CAN and the Yorubas as a people in the Nigerian project.
One thing I know, is that only an unfair critic could have found nothing in an Abacha, or a Babangida government, and yet seek to castigate an Obasanjo, who has more than tripled the revenues the northern states received from the last northern ruler (each state now receives at least twice the amount they previously did from the federation account). Yes! Obasanjo is bad because after all, he is first of all Obasanjo, a Yoruba, and finally a Christian, ingredients for what Dr. Muhammad agrees make for bad governance!!
And coming to Umar Bello's comparison of Babangida and Buhari (See Between Babangida and Buhari, Where Lies Statesmanship? By Umar Bello), I make bold to say that this is a very difficult exercise, because one is as good or bad as the other.
This Buhari who you now paint in such glorious terms may have appeared to you as an angel, may indeed be anything else but one. Let us look at this Buhari in an objective manner and see if he indeed is as rosy as you paint him.
In 1984, fresh from his coup against what you so call "Shagari's inept and corrupt regime" (and pray tell me which man made regime is free from ineptitude or corruption?) he introduced the War Against Indiscipline or "WAI" which Nigerians accepted with open hands. This man then went on to change the colouration of the currency, ostensibly to check economic saboteurs, and capital flight and he also directed that foreign currency could not be taken out of the country, except a very little sum approved by the CBN. In that same year and at the height of his WAI, we all saw how the matter of an important emir and his 54 suitcases of money seized at Murtala Mohammed Airport was handled.
But what was even more curious was that around the time of this incidence, the maverick musician Fela who was traveling for a musical tour to Italy with his band boys was caught with less than a thousand pounds, and was subsequently arrested. Not only was he arrested and tried, but another mysterious telephone call was made to Justice Okoro Idogu the trial judge by Buhari's deputy Tunde Idiagbon, ordering that Fela must be found guilty and given a stiff sentence. This coming from Justice Idogu's very own mouth.
Buhari and Idiagbon in their zeal to enhance discipline and curb economic waste, ordered that no underaged person cold go on Hajj to Mecca (under aged being under 18).The same Idiagbon, under Buhari then proceeded to take his own underaged son in the presidential jet to perform hajj.
Buhari's government passed a law to the effect that if you publish anything that even if true was in the opinion of the chief of staff supreme military council, capable of embarrassing any public official, then you had committed a crime. When the nation thought he was joking, he sent two journalist, and a cartoonist to jail for publishing materials which were TRUE, but which Buhari found uncomplimentary.
When asked by journalist when he was going to transit Nigeria into a democracy, this very man Buhari answered that he had no time for that.
You mention that Buhari paid half our national debt. That is a untrue! The fact is that Buhari repudiated all Nigeria's international financial commitments, and stopped all payments till debts could be verified. This ostensibly is a good policy, only that all international financial institution till today lost faith in Nigeria, and refused to give Nigeria credits for her imports. Nigeria from thence on had to always finance her imports before hand by guaranteeing them with her foreign reserves.
Further on the economy, Buhari began to barter Nigeria's oil for goods Nigeria needed. Why? Because nobody would do business with the country based on credit, in other words Nigeria was no longer credit worthy, as such we became desperate and started going against our OPEC commitments by bartering our oil for goods far less than their value!
In a religious and ethnically heterogeneous country as ours, Buhari saw no problem that both the head of state and his vice under his regime were of the same religion and ethnicity, Muslim Hausa Fulani (although many in the south erroneously believed that from his name, Idiagbon was Yoruba).
And while Buhari's tribunals which tried the civilian governors threw them in jail with terms ranging from 5 years to 250 years, it was on record that the cost of keeping the military governors he appointed was more than that of their civilian predecessors (A practice which continued into the Babangida years)
Everybody in Nigeria knew that Abacha was an usurper, and that he was uncontrollably corrupt and was also involved in state sponsored murder, but Buhari who you paint in such glowing colours, still agreed to serve under such a man as the chairman of PTF. As chairman of PTF, he made Salihijo Ahmad's Afriproject the sole consultant for monitoring and assessing the value of contracts. Afriproject consortium was so corrupt that at the inception of Abdulsalami's regime, fearful of exposure, the sole consultant committed suicide in his office. When the books of PTF were opened, the can of worms was so much that Haruna Adamu said he felt sickened by it. One body determined the contracts to be awarded, the payments to be made and whether the contracts had been satisfied.
Do you know PTF estate in Wuse? The sweetheart deal that Buhari's PTF made with the contractor was so sweet. Not only would the contractor collect rent from PTF, but after 8 years, the place would be his to own!
Also, it is on record that though most of the monies which accrued to PTF was sourced from the south, a disproportionately large amount of projects were concentrated in the north, and particularly in Buhari's home state of Katsina, with little done in the east and Niger Delta which needed help more than ever!
Is Buhari a statesman? Please ask yourself and answer objectively. Here is man who called on Muslims to vote only Muslim candidates at the recent elections. As if that was not enough, when given the chance to deny the statement, he blurted that he only said Muslims should vote for those who would promote their religion! Is that not one and the same thing?
Here is a man who went on to say that Nigerians don't need "ordinary rubber" to justify their citizenship (in reference to the national ID card scheme). A man who labelled as subversives his opponents who were schemed out of the Abuja ANPP Presidential primaries. A man who when the flame were burning in the north over Sharia publicly denounced the Council of States decision to down play Sharia temporarily.
My dear Umar, please read these little notes of mine as dispassionately and objectively as you can, and ask yourself if a man who has such a pedigree can be said to have in your words "patriotic fervour" who ran a government "with a sense of purpose" and who was discipline and incorruptible? One thing you must know is that if a tribunal of the same bend as the one constituted by Buhari to try civilians after his coup should look into what this Buhari and his relations did in PTF, Buhari himself will get more than the 250 years jail term that was handed down on Jim Nwobodo.
I also read and had course to join issues with Sesan Koyejo's article "funny ideas of Prof. Omoruyi..." also to be found on the gamji website.
Permit me to present some facts, notorious facts, which when read along with your article might throw more light on your knowledge of Obasanjo.
Sesan, you said in your article that Obasanjo is extremely devoid of loyalty to causes or persons and would sacrifice even his own child for his ambition. Let us see if facts support your assertion.
Obasanjo a Yoruba man, was the best friend of Chukwuma Nzeogwu, an Igbo. After Nzeogwu's failed coup, he feared poisoning and would only eat food prepared by Obasanjo. Before he died, he pleaded with OBJ to care for his family. It is on record that OBJ did this, and continues to do so till date. Nzeogwu's younger sister, who had a learning disability was sent to the best schools, including Mayflower Ikenne. His mother receives a pension from OBJ till date, and when he was released from prison, OBJ, went to visit Mrs. Nzeogwu in her village Okpanam.
Obasanjo was in Copenhagen in Denmark, when he was phoned up by Walter Carrington, then U.S. ambassador in Nigeria and told not to come back to Nigeria, because he would be arrested by Abacha for a phantom cop. He also got the same message from the current Chief of Staff in the presidency. Yet he came back. Why, because he knew that if he did, Yar' Adua and the other "coup plotters" would not be killed. Sesan you tried to stand reason on the head when you me and rejected this argument claiming instead that OBJ returned because he felt that Yar' adua's influence would save him. But what you did not know or may be conveniently forgot, was that Yar' adua was already in jail before OBJ returned. So the question you must answer Sesan, is how a man whose influence can not protect him can be expected to protect another?
In the year 2002, particularly in March, Arewa Consultative Forum, called on OBJ to fire his minister for works and housing Chief Anenih if he wanted their support for his second term. This warning was followed by a meeting in June, which was reported in Thisday, where IBB called for Anenih's sack before he would even discuss OBJ'S second term ambition. OBJ remained adamant and stuck with Anenih till this very day. Now Sesan, if that is not loyalty, I want you to define your own understanding of the word.
CONTROL OF PDP AND NIGERIA:
Sesan claims that Atiku Obasanjo's deputy is in fact his boss, and OBJ is merely a figure head. Can this be true?
It is an open secret that Atiku the vice president wanted OBJ to sack Anenih, because he felt threatened by the man, but rather than sack him, Anenih has remained the single most powerful man in Nigeria outside the president. Also recently, Atiku tried to make Bugaje his former political adviser speaker of the house, but he failed because OBJ wanted Masari who is now speaker. Aso Atiku lost in his constituency Jimeta-Yola to the ANPP, while OBJ won overwhelmingly in his.
From the above, any reasonable person would realise that while Atiku was very powerful during and after the events leading to the Presidential primaries, his power waned after that. Atiku himself saw this, which was why he orchestrated the governors from his zone to pay a solidarity visit to OBJ where they repeatedly begged him to ensure Atiku becomes president in 2007.If Obasanjo is as powerless as Sesan alleges, does it make sense that he can ensure the power that he does not have is passed to Atiku. According to this reasoning, Atiku only has to take what is his. But no. He comes appealing to OBJ. That tells unbiased minds who wears the crown.
Many people have always made the hasty generalisation that Yoruba's are great betrayers, and love among other things to bring down their own. Sesan, your actions in twisting facts to suit your obvious hatred for Obasanjo lends some credence to this lie against the Yoruba. The Yorubas are purportedly the most enlightened tribe in Nigeria, and that being the case, other Nigerians look up to them to set the pace, not the lie. Sesan inclusion, it is the actions of a few that has led to this bad image of the Yoruba, please don't be among those few
Reno Omokri is now VP Africa at Joe Trippi and Associates a DC based Political Consultancy firm. He wrote this while working at British House of Commons in 2003.